A Tale of Two Fishies

A month ago, my daughter’s cat died, the cat she slept with every night, and, since we knew it would be a few weeks until we got her a new one, I ran out and bought her a fish. I wanted her to have a pet she could watch to help her fall asleep. I got a beta fish because they’re supposed to be impossible to kill. Did I say impossible? Make that almost impossible.

She named him Fishy. Two weeks passed. We got the new cat, and everything was fine … until last week when Fishy wasn’t looking so hot. Little movement, lots of floating. I’m no fish expert, but it looked to me like he’d go belly up any minute. I figured my daughter had already learned her lesson about death and loss, and I wasn’t about to put her through it again over a fish, so I did what any good father would do: I prepared an elaborate deception.

The next day I checked Fishy one last time before I left for work and found him floating in his castle. With everyone busy with the new cat, I knew no one would notice Fishy taking a “nap,” and that would buy me the time I needed. I slipped out on my lunch break, bought a new and improved Fishy and sneaked him home ready to make the switch.

That’s when the miracle occurred. During my morning at work, Fishy was resurrected from the dead. OK, technically it was probably a near-death experience. But all I know was when I left that morning, it looked like he was pushing up daisies, or rather seaweed. When I got home, he was swimming laps like Michael Phelps.

That’s how I ended up with two fish, Fishy and the unnamed secret standby fish hanging out in a bowl in my bedroom. Sometimes miracles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Maybe God did this to teach me a lesson about avoiding death. Maybe He just didn’t want me to lie to my kids. Or maybe He still has important work for Fishy to do. Whatever the case, it was a great reminder for me that all too often I live my life expecting the worst-case scenario that may be waiting around the next corner, when what I know about God should always point me toward hope.

Romans 15:13 calls God the “God of hope” and says that He will fill us with joy and peace and make us overflow with hope if we trust in Him. Does my life overflow with hope? Or am I more of a gloom-and-doom kind of guy? If I’m not filled with hope, the Bible says I’m not trusting God. Trusting God doesn’t mean I think He’s going to protect me from every bad circumstance, though sometimes He certainly does. It just means that I believe I can count on Him to walk me through whatever comes my way.

I trust His character. I know He’s for me, not against me. I believe that He can take all the junk in my life — all the struggle, all the heartache, all the mistakes — and work it together for my good and the good of those around me. If I truly believe that kind of God is running the universe, how could I do anything but hope?

So, the next time my life’s looking green around the gills, maybe I won’t be so hasty to jump to pessimistic conclusions. When my future appears murky, I hope I’ll remember hope and the God whose faithfulness gives me reason to believe.

Secrets of the Squirrel Whisperer

I am related by marriage to the “Squirrel Whisperer.” She is my wife’s great-aunt, and I have watched her tame rodents with her beguiling charm. Impossible, you say? I once thought so myself, until I saw it with my own eyes.

Aunt Dot, or Auntie as the family calls her, spends much of her summer in a cabin nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains where the squirrels run thicker than mud.

“Auntie has a pet squirrel,” my wife told me during one visit. She said this casually as if she were referring to a cat.

“What are you talking about?” I asked. Surely, I’d misunderstood. “Did you say a squirrel?”

“Yeah, it eats right from her hand.”

This I had to see.

Auntie, silver-haired and spry, stood on the deck of her cabin, peanuts in hand and called him, “Chht-chht-chht! Chht-chht-chht! Here, Squirrely! Here, Squirrely, Squirrely!”

I was convinced she’d lost her mind.

But then Squirrely popped his head out from the branch of tree. Maybe I was the one losing my mind. I watched in disbelief as Squirrely climbed to the ground, pranced right up to her and snatched a peanut from her hand. He wiggled his tail at her and skittered off.

I had never seen anything quite like it. Even when Auntie was gone for the day, Squirrely would hang out by her cabin waiting to greet her when she came home like a loyal golden retriever.

I tried to call Squirrely once myself, just to see how hard it was to get on his good side, but he would have nothing to do with me. We just didn’t have the relationship.

This summer, when I was down at the cabin, Auntie called Squirrely again to introduce him to my daughters. The squirrel came halfway down the tree, then got spooked and bolted.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She looked at me matter-of-factly and answered, “That’s not Squirrely.”

Squirrely knew her voice and she, apparently, knew his.

In the Bible, Jesus made a similar claim about His sheep. “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”

I don’t know much about sheep, but some days the squirrel seems like a better metaphor for my spiritual life. I’m relationally skittish and find it hard to get close to people. I don’t trust easily. And like a squirrel, I have a tendency to hoard my stuff.

Yet, there is a voice that calls to me and, when I take time to listen, reassures me I have a friend, a friend who though very different from me, is someone I can trust. Someone who provides for me. Someone who, as mismatched as we may seem, wants to have a relationship with me.

If you think a retired lady and a squirrel make an odd couple, just imagine an infinite, selfless God hanging out with flawed, self-centered humans.

A good shepherd. A squirrel whisperer. Whatever you want to call Him, He’s calling your name today. As hard as it to believe, there is a God, who though totally beyond you, is, in fact, nuts about you.